Would You Stick Around After an Affair?

By on May 26, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about adultery — not in the ‘that would be fun’ way — but in the ‘how would I handle it?’ way. Of course the Sperminator got the ball rolling but a salacious affair at my daughter’s school got me and my husband talking.

This particular affair is surprising for it’s mundane qualities — a married dad and a married mom had an affair for a couple of years. It finished up one doomed relationship and the others have chosen to work it out — in full view of the other parents in the schoolyard. Our schoolyard isn’t different than yours, the same thing is probably happening right now at your schoolyard and throughout the hallways across the country. In my neighbourhood the ones I know of include a father having an affair with his son’s Kindergarten teacher, a friend getting “her ducts cleaned” by her contractor  and two moms getting it on before lunch pick-up.

We can’t really know what goes on in a marriage and the secret arrangements and deals that spouses make with each other. Marriage is a compromise and we all make those compromises in our own way. I don’t know how I would handle the knowledge that my husband had an affair and I’m not sure how he would handle it if I did. I think marriages can go on after affairs but there are lines that should not be crossed.

The thing I find particularly galling  when it comes to both Schwarzenegger and the less famous dad in my schoolyard is that they chose people to fool around with that their wives see everyday. (Understanding that the Guv may have had many others littered around town). And that is the part that seems so awful to me. Assuming that you have secretaries and interns and some other willing participants, why do you choose someone that your partner has to interact with? That seems to be the most humiliating part, the knowledge that one party thinks they are talking bake sales and childcare and the other person is thinking: “If you only knew what he did to me last night”. Isn’t the “Ha!” just assumed there?

When I brought this angle up with my husband (how do I know he doesn’t cheat? the man is very germ-phobic that alone will stop him), he didn’t get it. He just said all cheating is bad, how can you rank one as worse than another?

Well of course there is a ranking! From the forgivable night with Angelina Jolie to the unforgivable carrying on with a best friend. That is a continuum that women understand to be true. But did men miss the memo?

Is there a scale onto which you would graft a transgression? Do you think that you could forgive your spouse for stepping out? Could you make it work after an affair? I’m not sure the answers are knowable. I’m hopeful I won’t have to find out, you?

About Emma

Emma Waverman is the mistress of her domain to three kids and husband in Toronto. She co-wrote a cookbook called Whining and Dining, but still considers ordering take-out everyday. You can see what she is thinking about five days a week at her MSN.ca blog: www.embracethechaos.ca.


  1. melissa says:

    I have stuck around after an affair. Honestly I think every situation is different. We weren’t in a good place, which doesn’t excuse his behavior, and I was still completely and totally devestated, but looking back I can see how it happened. When it came right down to it, we both loved the other and really did want to work it out. We both were willing to do what it took to make things right and we did. I can’t say that things are perfect, or that I don’t flash back to that time and worry that it could or is happening again, but that’s life. Mistakes happan and you just have to decide which is bigger, the mistake or the relationship.

    I’ve thought a lot about it and if the circumstances had been different or we’d been in a different place in our life I may just have walked away. But when I look at what we have now I’m glad I didn’t. We’ve had a beautiful daughter and built a wonderful life since then and I think we are closer in some respects becasue of it. It was constantly in the back of my head for a long time, but that has lessened over time, and he’s shown me in a MILLION ways how sorry he is and how this is where he wants to be.

    You have to make the choice to move forward or not and stick to that choice. That doesn’t just go for an affair, it goes for life in general. You chose a new career, a new home, a major life change, you either commit to that choice and make it work or you don’t and fail completely. It’s not easy, but it was clear to me what or choice would be.

    • Emma says:

      A very thoughtful response and approach. Sounds like the hard work paid off! thanks.

  2. kittenpie says:

    I think the massive breach of trust would be really, really hard to get past. How to rebuild that without going insane from the suspicion that would haunt you for ages, I just don’t know, but it would take at minimum huge commitment on his part to being completely transparent to you and allowing you to act like the paranoid person you might feel like until you feel like you can start to trust again. I guess how much you are willing to go through to get to that point depends on how sturdy that relationship is in the first place.

    I also agree that the breach of trust involved in a one-time fling with someone is not as egregious as an ongoing affair with someone who knows you, in which case you are having trust broken by TWO people who should be treating you better. that would surely be the end, I think.

    And finally – now I am SO curious about who all these characters you’re referring to are… Though I likely don’t know the same families you do, that is some juicy local gossip you are sitting on!
    kittenpie´s last [type] ..Wanted- One Copywriter

  3. Kirsty says:

    I did stay around after multiple short “flings” (one-night stands as far as I’m aware, though at least one was a little more regular) and now regret most of it bitterly. I was, and am still, hopelessly lacking in self-confidence. My “love life” up till the time I met my now-ex was a joke – a series of awkward (and often humiliating) flings. D came into my life 15 years ago and seemed to actually want to be with me. The problem was that he also wanted to be with just about every other woman on the planet. The worst transgression was on holiday in Bulgaria in 1998, when he took off with a bunch of Ukranian “girls” (I’m being polite), leaving me alone on the beach in a country where I couldn’t communicate with anyone. I was devastated. But we’d started our long let’s-have-a-baby process and I couldn’t bear the thought of walking out and ending up alone for the rest of my life (yeah, self-esteem is pretty low too). So he claimed to have stopped having flings (and I pretty much believe him), we lost a baby in 2000 and ended up having two more beautiful daughters, now aged 9 and 7. But D’s unstable behaviour got worse and he lost his mind totally last year, accusing me of all kinds of hateful and totally untrue things (trying to poison him, trying to poison our elder daughter, SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS PICKED UP ON THE WEB (oh, the irony), chronic gambling…) and leaving me on 1 May. Since then, I’ve been trying to get a grip on my life and have been generally succeeding – my work keeps me just about afloat (D contributed virtually nothing financially being also chronically incapable of finding and/or keeping work), the girls are happy, healthy, doing well at school. But my “love life” is non-existent. I’m so lonely I could scream. I’m too broke for babysitters, too scared to even contemplate the idea of “dating” (I was crap at that when I was 20, I can’t be any better at 40+), too lacking in confidence and self-esteem. I think hanging around was a hideous mistake, apart from my beautiful little girls who mean the world to me. I’m just soooo scared of having to spend the rest of my life (which could be more than 40 years!) alone, of never feeling a man’s arms around me, of never hearing a man say he loves me (D wasn’t great at that either, nor at giving compliments, all of which contributed to my lack of self-esteem)… I’m making D seem like a monster, but he’s not: he’s smart, and funny, and entertaining, and a good father but I’m not sure he was good for me…
    I think every case is effectively different and I would definitely make a sliding scale – one night with Angelina Jolie is totally different from sleeping with my best friend every week for 2 years. I guess I should have seen the warning signs, D’s whole life pattern (mirroring his late – schizophrenic – uncle, unfortunately) is unstable and I should probably have gotten out whilst I could. But my sweet girls, oh, my sweet girls, I can’t imagine life without them, so I can’t really say I have regrets…
    Kirsty´s last [type] ..Summer

  4. Jessica says:

    I think it would depend on so many factors… how long have you been in the relationship in question? Are there children involved? Do you know the other person? Was it a one time transgression that resulted in a snot covered sobbing confession and a re-commitment, or an ongoing affair while you were blissfully unaware and it only came to light because of a credit card bill? Objectively, is the relationship already over or is there something there to save?

    It’s such a personal decision, and I really don’t think that the same person would make the same decision given a different set if circumstances .

    For me, when my boyfriend of 5 years slept with the close friend I had been talking to about how things were rocky with him, but I loved him and wanted to work it out… I walked away. Both of the other people involved obviously didn’t care if I found out or if I was devastated; no point in trying to save a dead relationship.
    Jessica´s last [type] ..A Weekend of Fun

  5. @momstownca Ann-Marie says:

    Emma – great post and brings up great questions. The one thing not mentioned is circumstances in the family not just the marriage and the who did who. I’ve been married 10 years and if an affair happened pre-kids I would probably have walked regardless of the circumstances. Now, with kids, I’m not so sure. I think I’d rather not know of any affairs than have to face the guilt, grief and humiliation of making a decision.
    @momstownca Ann-Marie´s last [type] ..Home page

  6. gleefulreader says:

    Wow – I’m going to start looking at the other parents in the school yard and Little Girl’s teachers a lot more closely. I mean, wow. That’s some crazy happenings.

    As for the cheating – I don’t really know. On the one hand I would *like* to think that a one-night stand is less egregious than an on-going affair, but then again, perhaps not. A one-night stand sort of implies an ease to infidelity that doesn’t necessarily exist in a long-standing affair, which is more likely to have grown out of friendship that eventually deepened. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but to me a one-night stand seems to imply that somebody was just a little hungry for some adventure and dove in. I think that in that situation, ultimately, they would be more likely to be a repeat offender even if you worked past it once.

    With respect to the choice of partner when cheating – when it isn’t a one-night stand, who are you most likely to come into regular enough contact to develop a relationship with? Likely it *is* going to be someone you see regularly. And I’m also going to guess that the “ha” isn’t really implicit and both parties feel a great deal of guilt about what they are doing. I’m making an assumption here, but I’m imaging *most* people involved in longer-term affairs (apart from those cases like Schwartzenegger and his ilk who carry on multiple parallel relationships) are fairly divided and guilt-ridden about the situation. Just a guess, but in most cases I don’t think an affair is a walk in the park for any party involved (those doing the cheating and those being cheated on).
    gleefulreader´s last [type] ..Review- Beatrice &amp Virgil

  7. Jenn K says:

    The only way I could possibly imagine going on with a marriage after my partner strayed outside of it would be if I had full knowledge of the affair before it occurred, and acquiesced to it. Otherwise, forget it. In the case of my own marriage, if my husband lied to me in that fashion he would not be the man that I have loved and trusted for twenty years, and I would not be capable of or even interested in getting past that. Actually, it would be that way for any major breach of trust. Whether it involves adultery or not to me is irrelevant.

    • Beth says:

      I totally agree Jenn. I think it is down to each individual and how confident you are or how much you rely on your partner and maybe how confident you are he or she wont do it again. For me it would be a deal breaker. Kids or not. I don’t have kids yet but am pregnant with my first and I would rather be alone than be in a relationship with someone so undeserving and so willing to humiliate you. If I did stay with him it would only be to get my revenge for a short while and leave him penniless and sobbing on the floor so he could know how it feels. It is just the way I am, trust is a big deal in the relationship and I am not saying it is right but for me, if my man cant show he is trustworthy I can’t be with him. I dont have enough confidence to trust a guy from the get go and I need some evidence. As it is my current relationship is rocky because he hasnt proven this and some dodgy conversations with his female friends have led me to believe that he might not be the man I thought he was. I stay with him because I’m a sucker for him, I’m pregnant with his baby and as it is I can’t prove he has done anything wrong. If I were to ever find out he had broken that trust (as little as there is) then it would be over in the most spectacular way. I wish I had the confidence to have a normal trusting and loving relationship but as it is this is how I survive. Him telling me what he is doing and us being completely honest with each other works for me. I would rather hear the painful truth than hear a sweet lie only to find out the painful truth later as it will be painful truth x a million plus the added knowledge that he lied. I just simply can’t do it. My only explanation for the way I am is my past but I can’t change it so I have to find ways to get around my feelings and being this way is how I do it. Otherwise I would never have a relationship at all. I’m lucky he seems to want to stay with me but he does and for that I do love him so much and I’m truly thankful that he isn’t so judgmental of how I am. Most guys would run a mile. I’m hoping that it’s because he would only find it a problem if he wanted to cheat but as he doesn’t then he doesn’t find any problem in letting me know things that others would consider too personal to ask their other half. We are a transparent unit and I don’t believe in lies. It works for me and I dont see why it has to be such a problem for others that I need this reassurance.

  8. Lindi says:

    Well, all I can say is, my husband did it, for months and months, then left me, and divorced me for her, a flooze at his work, then three months later came back and we got married again. Honestly, looking back, I wouldnt do it again, marry him I mean, I would probably have taken him back, we have three boys and have lost the fourth in the process, and I do honestly think that we would not still be together. You can be brave and smile, and say that its all water under the bridge and all that, but its not like that, its always there, no matter what happens, no matter how happy you think you are, or pretend to be. The question always lurks, where is he, who is he with, when will he leave again. Its always, always here and I doubt if there is anybody, that has been through it and has dealt with it that can tell me that it isnt. I have been there, I am still there, I have earned the T-shirt and ladies, believe me, a leopard never changes its spots, he did it once, he will do it again!